Warriors end winless streakPublished 11:50pm Friday, September 27, 2013
By Matthew Hatfield
Badly needing a win before the calendar turns from September to October, the Nansemond River Warriors hit the road Friday night to Chesapeake, looking to end their three-game losing skid to start to the 2013 campaign.
Behind the spectacular running of senior tailback Latrell ‘Vegas’ Sandifer, the Warriors were able to notch their first win of the season, 35-14 over the Indian River Braves to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Sandifer rushed for a personal-best 254 yards on 22 carries and three touchdowns. That topped his previous career-high of 238 yards, which he set last season in a victory over Hickory.
“It was a great night and about time we got that monkey off our backs,” Sandifer said after his star performance. “We’ve been anticipating this so much, fought so hard through the week, we got a few people come back from key injuries and we’ve been preaching no turnovers.”
Back in the lineup was a healthy Marvin Branch; the senior linebacker recorded six tackles after missing parts or all of the past two games due to injury. In the previous three losses, the Warriors committed 13 turnovers, including six against Churchland. Nansemond River’s lone turnover came midway through the fourth quarter on a muffed punt with a 14-point lead already in place.
An interception by sophomore linebacker Joshua Bush made them even in the turnover margin on the night and ended any comeback attempt by the Braves late. As the Warriors rolled up 330 yards rushing, there were no fumbles by any of their four ball carriers, nor were there any interceptions, a major step in the right direction.
“We went through so many ball security drills I think we spent a whole practice on strictly ball security,” Sandifer added. “That’s what we’ve been focusing on, and when we don’t turn it over the scoreboard shows the results. I feel like we executed, the linemen were blocking great and we couldn’t ask for much more.”
On their second possession of the night, the Warriors found the end zone first with a six-play, 55-yard scoring drive, highlighted by a 26-yard run from Sandifer. Junior quarterback Jermaal Wells ended the drive with a seven-yard touchdown run.
Indian River countered with a punch of their own early in the second quarter when freshman quarterback Devon Hunter darted 40 yards to the end zone and the Braves tied the score at 7.
Nansemond River would re-gain the lead with 15 seconds left in the opening half when they finished off an 11-play, 82-yard drive that took nearly five minutes off the clock on Sandifer’s 10-yard rush. Nansemond River extended their lead to 15-7 with Terrence Lambert’s successful two-point conversion run.
A 15-yard touchdown run from Lambert on the first play of the fourth quarter pushed their advantage to double-digits at 21-7. Sandifer would then pop off breathtaking touchdown scampers of 50 and 65 yards respectively the next two times the Warriors got the ball on offense to put distance between them and the Braves.
“The key tonight for us was not committing turnovers. We had opportunities in a couple of those previous games. It’s really hard when you get off to a start like this because kids hear so much outside the sport that it can go one way or the other,” remarked a relieved Nansemond River head coach Tracey Parker afterwards.
“I was proud of the overall effort. Along with the execution and lack of turnovers, we were able to do some really positive things, especially on the ground.”
Lambert and Wells chipped in 69 yards rushing on 18 attempts. Sandifer gained 153 yards after halftime.
“The coaches preached to me big players make big plays in big-time moments. I felt I needed to step up for the team because we all needed it and we all were looking at each other to make the big play,” Sandifer noted. “It was my turn to step up, and after that Jermaal and Terrence stepped up as well and we got the ball rolling. Hopefully we can keep this going into next week.”
Next Friday at Arrowhead Stadium, the Warriors welcome in a winless Lakeland team they lost to 14-9 one year ago in the regular season finale, eliminating them from playoff contention.
“Throw records out the window because it’s a rivalry game,” says Parker. “You can’t think about records or where who is. You have to focus on the game. We have a 24-hour rule where we’ll let this soak in for 24 hours and then we’ll start getting ready for Lakeland.”